The undeniable fun of playing video games is that we get to explore worlds beyond our wildest imagination…or some that are pretty down-to-earth. Whichever the case may be, exploration is one of the essential aspects of many titles.
Developers do their best to makes the worlds they’ve created full of all kinds of nooks and crannies where the player may find various collectibles or even NPCs with a quest to complete. Sometimes, exploration is the sole purpose of the game, otherwise lacking any gameplay content. These games will be the topic of our list of the top ten best exploration games.
|The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition||2021-11-11||RPG||Bethesda Game Studios||53%||Read more|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt||2015-05-18||RPG||CD PROJEKT RED||66%||Read more|
|Journey||2020-06-11||Indie, Adventure||Thatgamecompany, Tricky Pixels, Santa Monica Studio||26%||Read more|
|Assassin's Creed Odyssey||2018-10-05||Action||Ubisoft Quebec||81%||Read more|
|No Man's Sky||2016-08-12||Adventure||Hello Games||75%||Read more|
|Far Cry 6 (Xbox Series X/S)||2021-10-07||Action & Adventure||Ubisoft Toronto||50%||Read more|
|The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind GOTY Edition||2002-04-29||RPG||Bethesda Game Studios||67%||Read more|
|Oxenfree||2016-01-14||Adventure||Night School Studio||87%||Read more|
|Fable Anniversary||2014-09-12||RPG||Lionhead Studios||77%||Read more|
|The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Edition Deluxe||2009-06-16||RPG||Bethesda Game Studios®||53%||Read more|
|The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim||2011-11-11||Adventure||Bethesda Game Studios||69%||Read more|
|Torchlight II||2012-10-02||Adventure||Runic Games||85%||Read more|
|The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition||2016-10-27||Adventure||Bethesda Game Studios||47%||Read more|
|Mass Effect Trilogy||2012-11-06||Adventure||BioWare||57%||Read more|
|Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning||2012-02-08||RPG||38 Studios||76%||Read more|
|Fallout New Vegas||2010-10-21||Action & Shooter||Obsidian Entertainment||44%||Read more|
|Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Game of the Year||2014-09-30||Adventure||Feral Interactive (Linux)||81%||Read more|
|Monster Hunter World||2018-08-09||Action||CAPCOM CO., LTD.||79%||Read more|
|Fallout 4||2015-11-09||RPG||Bethesda Game Studios||85%||Read more|
|Fallout 3 - Game of the Year Edition||2009-10-13||RPG||Bethesda Game Studios||57%||Read more|
|Middle-earth: Shadow of War||2017-10-10||Adventure||Monolith Productions||92%||Read more|
|Red Dead Redemption 2 (Ultimate Edition)||2018-10-26||Action & Adventure||Rockstar Games||60%||Read more|
|Grand Theft Auto V: Premium Online Edition||2015-04-14||Adventure||Rockstar North||70%||Read more|
|Mad Max||2015-09-01||Adventure||Avalanche Studios||80%||Read more|
|Far Cry 4||2014-11-18||Adventure||Ubisoft Montreal, Red Storm, Shanghai, Toronto, Kiev||68%||Read more|
|Far Cry 3||2012-11-28||Adventure||Ubisoft Montreal, Massive Entertainment, and Ubisoft Shanghai||73%||Read more|
|Assassin's Creed: Valhalla (Xbox Series X)||2020-11-10||Action RPG||Ubisoft||52%||Read more|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Years Celebration||2016-02-09||Adventure||Crystal Dynamics||88%||Read more|
|Assassin's Creed Origins||2017-10-27||RPG||Ubisoft Montreal||86%||Read more|
|Developer:||Thatgamecompany, Tricky Pixels, Santa Monica Studio|
The first title on our list is Journey, a game that elevates the medium to the rank of art. In Journey, the player controls a robed figure who traverses a desert landscape, making their way for the mountain looming in the distance. Throughout the titular journey, the traveler encounters signs of an ancient civilization – ruins of buildings buried under the dunes.
Due to its barebones gameplay features, Journey could be easily be called a walking simulator. Throughout the game, the player will do only that – walk around the shifting dunes, occasionally using the traveler’s powers to glide in the air to reach higher places. And that is enough, as the game’s focus is placed on the calmness of the trek towards the mountain, making Journey a perfect game to cleanse your palate after playing any of the loud, triple-A titles.
|Developer:||Night School Studio|
This indie graphic adventure takes the player to Edward’s Island, of the shore of Canada. There, a group of friends decides to throw a party celebrating Alex, the player’s character, and her newly minted stepbrother. During the party, Alex discovers a strange frequency emitted in one of the caves. Tuning into it causes a series of events that will change her and her friends forever.
Created by the studio made of former developers at Telltale Games, Oxenfree focuses on the player exploring the island and figuring out the strange phenomena that seem to be occurring there. The gameplay involves walking around ad interacting with various objects, sometimes using Alex’s radio to tune into a frequency to unlock the path further or find a collectible. Oxenfree’s graphics style and engaging story make this walk around a haunted island one worth taking.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
|Developer:||Bethesda Game Studios|
No list of games about exploration would be complete without Bethesda’s epic action-RPG. The adventure in the northern region of Tamriel sees the player take on the mantle of the Dragon-born, a hearo meant to save the land from the wrath of the ancient dragon, Alduin. As the player explores the vast swaths of land, they will meet various characters, complete sidequests, and collect various trinkets.
As for an action-RPG, Skyrim offers a robust open-world environment, which the player can freely explore. The region includes different biomes, from lush woodlands to rocky hills. Located there are various small towns and sprawling cities, caves, and mines, etc. Taking a stroll among the Skyrim nature will satisfy the fans of in-game exploration.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar Studios’ opus magnum gives the player a real paradise for the fans of exploring open-world environments and interacting with its inhabitants. Suffice to say that RDR 2 features three distinct regions, based on the south-eastern United States. While traveling with Dutch Van Der Linde’s gang, the player will visit small frontier towns, growing cities, and various gang hideouts.
Navigating the world of Red Dead Redemption 2 is made easier thanks to the variety of modes of transportation. Of course, the player’s first option will be their trusty steed. The horseriding mechanics have been significantly improved, allowing the player to bond with a particular horse to increase its “performance.” Other means of transportation include stagecoaches that the player can ride (or drive) and trains. RDR2 offers a unique experience of a Wild West simulator, letting the player enjoy the life of a late 19th-century outlaw to the fullest.
No Man's Sky
Breathtaking scope of the game world, hundreds of planets teeming with life, and free exploration of the universe – this is what Hello Games promised the players with its space-based survival game, No Man’s Sky. And while only some of these promises turned out to be accurate at the launch, after five years, the game finally meets the grand vision, which Sean Murray had laid before the players.
No Man’s Sky stands out from other similar titles with the enormous size of its world. The player is given a chance to explore literally the entire universe, moving closer and closer to its center. Each world they will visit is different and features unique biomes that the player can explore for necessary resources. However, space exploration isn’t a task for the faint of heart, as not all words will be friendly, and the scarcity of resources might put the player’s expedition to an early end.
Grand Theft Auto V
In Grand Theft Auto V, the bustling Los Santos and the neighboring Blaine County welcome the players dreaming of making it big in a big city. The fifth installment of Rockstar’s open-world series takes itself less seriously than its predecessor, giving the player a chance to enjoy the wacky shenanigans of Michael, Franklin, and Trevor – three partners-in-crime looking for the score of their lives.
Similar to the previously mentioned Red Dead Redemption 2, GTA V is a giant sandbox that allows the player to enjoy all its content in any way they like. Aside from the story missions, during which the trio of protagonists will interact with a whole range of shady individuals, the player can explore the city and the surrounding desert area looking for collectibles, optional activities, and side-missions. With a whole range of driveable vehicles, such as bikes, motorcycles, cars, planes, etc., the player is bound to enjoy searching the map o GTA V for the next point of interest.
2015’s Mad Max video game is an excellent combination of exploration, combat, and vehicular gameplay – everything the player would expect from a game based on the character popularized by Mel Gibson. In Mad Max, the titular character searches for the Plains of Silence, where he hopes to find peace. On the way there, he is ambushed by the warboys of Scabrous Scrotus, who steal his car and leave him for dead. Saved from the brink by the grease-finger Chumbucket, Max takes him up on the offer to build an even better car than his legendary Interceptor to take vengeance on Scrotus.
In Mad Max, the protagonist’s new car – called Magnum Opus – is the primary mode of exploring the post-apocalyptic wasteland. The land is divided into several regions, showing various states of desolation – from the vast emptiness of the Dunes to the smoke-covered skies of Gastown. Max’s new ride will take him and chumbucket anywhere they want, provided her tank is full, and roads are clear of Scrotus’ warboys. Thanks to the fact that the Magnum Opus can be equipped with an arsenal of weapons – from harpoons to flamethrowers to rocket launchers – to make life harder for anyone foolish enough to get in Max’s way.
Far Cry 6
Ubisoft’s open-world FPS series has reached that level of gaming mastery, that the only thing that changes is the location. In Far Cry 6, the player will get to enjoy some crazy mayhem on Cu…eh-hum, Yara – a small island nation led by ruthless dictator Anton Castilo. As Dani, a member of the local guerilla force, the player will be put to the task of ending Castilo’s rule of terror…and enjoying the exploration of yet another tropical paradise.
Thanks to the Far Cry series, the players visited a South Pacific pirate island, a secluded Himalayan nation, and a Midwestern county taken over by a cult. Far Cry 6’s setting of a Latin American island offers them a chance to broaden their globetrotting experience. On Yara, the player will be able to visit bustling cities where the days are hot and nights – even hotter. As the members of a guerilla freedom force, Dani (and the player) will spend a lot of time hiding in the jungle, planning their next move against the dictator. The island and the surrounding waters can be explored on foot, on horseback, by car, and obviously in a boat.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Gone are the days of historical tourism simulators with elements of action and stealth- Assassin’s Creed is shaping it’s own path in the gaming world, embracing the identity of a decent, open-world action-RPG. This time the action is set in Norway and Eastern England, where a bunch of rowdy Vikings decides to make their new home when the things go bad up north. As their leader, Eivor, it’s up to the player to forge alliances with the locals and expand the settlement into a thriving city.
The map of AC Valhalla features a network of roads and rivers, which the players can use to reach various locations. Sailing the dragon boat, riding fast across the English countryside, or scaling cliffs and city walls will be some of the ways the players can use to explore the areas in search of hidden collectibles, loot chests, etc. And if the hilly landscape of East Anglia becomes too monotone, the players can make their way back to Norway, with its majestic fjords looming over the freezing waters and snow-covered valleys.
Tomb Raider (2013 reboot)
|Developer:||Feral Interactive (Linux)|
The first game in Tomb Raider’s “Survivor Trilogy” invites the player to a mysterious Japanese island of Yamatai, where the Sun Empress Himiko controls the storms, trapping in those who dare come near her kingdom. Young Lara Croft and her expedition become the latest victims of Himkio’s wrath. As Lara struggles to survive against unrelenting elements, she encounters a dark cult leader with nefarious plans for the Empress’ powers. These plans involve one of Lara’s shipwrecked friends, Sam.
Yamatai comprises various distinct locations, including a dense forest, an abandoned village, a ruined castle, and a Second World War army base. Thanks to Himiko’s divine power, the climate on the island is volatile, giving each region its own weather conditions – from the sun shining over a village to snowstorm raging in the highest parts of the mountain base. Yamatai also hides a lot of secrets, which our intrepid archaeologist can seek out. The secrets include collectible geocaches, weapon parts hidden in crates, and challenge tombs, clearing which yields a great treasure.